Interview with Paul Copcutt, Personal Brand Architect, Canada

Vasudhaiv Kutumbkam* Interview series

(Global Leaders who have Enlarged, Excelled and Evolved into Global Personal Brands)


Dr Amit Nagpal-I saw two unusual terms on your Linkedin profile viz. new world of work and authentic networking. Please explain them in brief.
Paul Copcutt-New world of work - Dan Pink wrote about the new world of work in his book A Whole New Mind several years ago. The fact that if your job can be done faster by a machine or software or cheaper somewhere else in the world, you need to differentiate now or that job will not exist. We saw a rush of this ‘outsourcing’ prior to the global economic crisis. But now what we are seeing as companies come out the other side is the real impact of this. Companies are not re-hiring at the same levels or positions as they were pre-recession. They do not need to and have found other ways to get the work handled, be it outsourcing or the remaining employees doing more with less. This makes the need to personally brand even more critical as the job market becomes even more competitive.

Authentic networking–technology has enabled us to connect much more easily and readily. But with that comes responsibility. Just because it’s easier does not mean we should lower standards or forgoe the ultimate reason for networking – to give. You still have to approach networking with an authentic mindset, not what’s in it for me but how can I best help?


Dr Amit-How can corporations use personal branding with employees as an engagement and retention tool? How do you help them in this area?
Paul-Almost every organization is acutely aware of the challenges it faces over the next few years with regards to talent acquisition and development – ensuring that their future leaders are being stimulated and retained within the organization.

Very few however have made the connection between the use of personal branding and employee engagement. This is in part due to the mis-conception that personal branding is going to be used by the employee to develop the necessary visibility and credibility to make a move elsewhere.

In fact the use of personal branding inside an organization is the perfect match for the direction that the market is heading and with where the demographics of the future talent pool lies. Boomers are retiring at increasing rates and those that are sticking around to work longer in many cases seek many job variables that cannot be satisfied by traditional approaches, for example even though telecommuting has been shown to increase productivity and retention in North America it’s adoption is stagnating in terms of percentage of the workforce being allowed even one day of remote working.

The talent pool of future leaders lies in the under 35 year old age group. The most technologically advanced, non-conformist and individual generation (yet!). They shudder at the thought of being the same as others, they want challenge and variety, whilst still finding an employer that understands that their values and causes are important and supported and that they can connect and communicate at all levels internally and externally with openness (see the rise of corporate sponsored blogging as an example). And they are not afraid to ask for what they want and move on if they do not get heard.

Enter personal branding – built around being authentic and from a strong foundation of building on unique strengths and skills it is a natural fit for the employee that wants control over the direction of their career, but still stays true to what they believe and stand for and encourages them to be themselves.

In our work with many organizations this is the first opportunity to design what their work should look like and employees that go through the personal branding process recognize and appreciate the investment in their future that their employer is making. It’s not just another training session, but something that provides them with a concrete career plan that can be followed and they were responsible for creating – the ownership and accountability is the employees.

Corporations that have embraced the concept fully, now take it to the next level and incorporate the personal branding review as part of any other annual review process, and even drill down to quarterly ‘check-ins’.  Others have even taken the branding approach to the team stage and looked at creating team brands and messages that can be understood internally, helping everyone to appreciate each others part in the company’s success.


Dr Amit-You believe, “Your leadership brand is what others say it is” How do we ensure that others validate us the way we want?
Paul-By ensuring that in every interaction, every touch point, every time someone comes across you in any form or medium you deliver on what you say and want your leadership brand to be.


Dr Amit-What are the 8 pillars of Personal Brand Leadership?
Paul-The 8 Pillars of Personal Branding Leadership
Persona – identifying how you interact and behave with others.
Emotional – being aware of your values and passions. What is at your core.
Reason – defining why you do what you do. Your vision and purpose, what drives you.
Strengths – leveraging what you do best.Your unique skills and greatest strengths.
Others – listening to what others perceive of you. Knowing who to reach, your target audience.
Network – managing your relationships.Building, maintaining and saving.
Action – putting it all together and moving forward.
Leadership – the sum total of all the points. What others say is your leadership brand.


Dr Amit-Tell us about your current projects.
Paul-My work is split fairly evenly between speaking on the latest developments and interpretations of personal branding at conferences and events. I am also regularly delivering workshops and keynotes inside organizations and then working with teams and individuals in a coaching capacity to help them develop and build their personal brands.


Dr Amit-Tell us how is the field of personal branding changing and evolving in the eastern and western parts of the world.
Paul-When I first got involved in personal branding almost a decade ago it was very much viewed as a North American approach. Even more so the Canadians and Europeans while open to the concept were more reluctant to embrace it with the same vigor that Americans were.

As opportunities have become much more global and the movement of people more common there has been more interest from the East in the approach and how it can be used to manage careers. I am getting more client interest from Asia and a slow realisation that the more traditional ways of finding work do not apply as well and that an extra level of knowledge and edge needs to be reached.

Social media has helped to amplify this. However this is a double edged sword. There are far too many ‘experts’ running around telling us that Social Media = Personal brand. It doesn’t. Just the same as the fact that marketing via social media is not the complete answer for products and services, it’s another medium, but not a replacement for established brand foundation and development. 

Thanks a lot Paul for sharing your wonderful insights and experiences.
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Brief profile
Paul Copcutt first aligned with personal branding after reading Tom Peters 'Brand You 50’ in 1997. Described as The Personal Brand Architect he is fiercely committed to helping people take control and build their careers and businesses by design not chance. Now a sought after speaker and media resource he has been featured by Forbes, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal and Elle.  He speaks, writes, coaches and consults on the subject of personal branding with corporations, organizations, conferences and individuals across the globe.

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